Across the Western world, people are angry about the inability of government to perform basic functions competently. With widespread evidence of policy failures at home and ill–conceived wars and interventions abroad, it is hardly surprising that politicians are distrusted and government is derided as a sprawling, wasteful mess. But what exactly is government supposed to do, and is the track record of Western governments really so awful?
In this compelling book, leading scholar of public policy and management, Alasdair Roberts, explores what government does well and what it does badly. Political leaders, he explains, have always been obliged to wrestle with shifting circumstances and contending priorities, making the job of governing extraordinarily difficult. The performance of western democracies in recent decades is, admittedly, far from perfect but – as Roberts ably shows – it is also much better than you might think.
Morris P. Fiorina, Stanford University
Governing, particularly in democracies, is difficult and often frustrating work. In this vital new book, Alasdair Roberts makes a convincing case that Western governments have been largely effective at addressing the challenges they face.
Stephen K. Medvic, Franklin & Marshall College
"In a world dominated by narratives of democratic crisis and decline Alasdair Roberts reveals the innate complexities of modern governance and political statecraft. In a book that is as clear and accessible as it is intellectually thoughtful and provocative, Roberts offers a positive and optimistic account of contemporary politics. It offers an energising breadth of fresh air in what is otherwise a fairly gloomy scholarly space."
Matthew Flinders is Professor of Politics and Founding Director of the Sir Bernard Crick Centre for the Public Understanding of Politics at the University of Sheffield. He is also President of the Political Studies Association of the United Kingdom.